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Richland planning more cuts amid state budget impasse

Richland planning more cuts amid state budget impasse

March 31 – Richland Community College has announced more cuts as they continue to battle financial troubles due to a lack of the state budget.


The following is a release from Richland:


“As budget impasse rages on and the legislature continues to discuss bills that may lead to a Fiscal Year 2018 budget, Richland Community College has made plans to solidify strategies for reductions in the upcoming fiscal year and beyond. With the ongoing efforts to remain fiscally responsible to its District taxpayers, these cuts will be phased in over two years, and will result in a 9.2 percent decrease or an additional $1.4 million cost reduction from the FY 2017 budget level.


According to Richland Community College President Cristobal Valdez, Richland began conversations in September 2015 after realizing the reality of the state budget situation. “Since 2005, the state’s share has dwindled to five percent in the current year. This lack of state support is changing the financial landscape for the College. During the fall 2015 and through May 2016 it became apparent that any dependence on state support would be significantly unreliable and at substantially reduced amounts. The Richland FY 2017 budget did not include any state grant revenue. This is a reduction of almost $2.2 million. Richland is currently building the FY 2018 budget, which will not include state grant funding as well,” said Valdez.


In January, it was announced to faculty and staff that restructuring decisions were one action the College would use to specifically address the budget situation. The leadership of the College worked to prepare its second fiscal year budget that incorporated no dependency on state funding. The College has experienced a 13 percent or $2.6 million in revenue loss over the past two years. Valdez stated that declining state revenues, reduced local property valuations, and lagging enrollment numbers have continued, and now the college is looking at cost cuts of nearly $1.4 million in response to no immediate indication of a state budget for the upcoming fiscal year.


Personnel costs for the College reached 80% of operational expenses, so reductions in this area became necessary. Strategies are being utilized by leadership to determine areas of staff reduction including special employee separation incentives, absorption and reallocation of work responsibilities for vacated positions, and close examination and review of staffing models for each department.


On Friday, Richland announced that a total of 14 employees accepted the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program. The most recent reduction in force includes an additional 8 full-time employees and 10 part-time employees.


“Given the enormity of the reductions to revenue, it would have been impossible to make these budgetary adjustments exclusively through operations. However, we believe the planning and input by employees allows us to mitigate the impact on personnel, continue to serve students into the future and protect the long-term sustainability of the College as no programs have been eliminated as a result of these decisions,” said Valdez.


In a measure to find these reductions based on data, members of Richland’s Cabinet looked closely at actions that would not be detrimental to the focus on student success. The Cabinet used several guidelines to direct its process including the following: deficit spending could not occur; strict prioritization placed on growing enrollment and increasing success/completion rates; Leveraging technology to gain efficiencies in all areas; and investing in instructional services.


In addition, the College began looking for ways to increase revenue and growth opportunities; explore cost saving solutions; determine reallocation strategies; and focus on balancing the budget while positioning the college for the future.


Valdez said, “Richland Community College is committed to this community as a premier provider of quality education for individuals seeking job training as well as those whose educational path leads them to transferring to a university. Providing this education at the most affordable cost is a basic tenant of Richland. We are also committed to being fiscally responsible to the District taxpayers who support almost half of the operational costs. Similarly, we are respectful of our students’ financial situations that, through tuition, pay nearly half of the operational costs. As community colleges were originally conceived, students, taxpayers, and the State of Illinois each were to share approximately one-third of the costs.”


“The College plans to stick to its mission, but is making modifications that will increase efficiency while still providing a cutting edge education for individuals so they may successfully enter the workforce or transfer to a university. As we look to the future, we must face the current reality of the present,” added Valdez.


He added, “Richland is focused on prioritizing efforts to achieve its core mission – providing exceptional education at affordable rates to all of our students. In a study conducted by Northern Illinois University, a Richland Community College program graduate could expect a 54.4% increase in projected total lifetime earnings over those that had not completed a program. In addition, Richland students who completed their education and worked year-round saw a 62.7% increase in earnings over their pre-enrollment wages. A Richland education has a significant impact on its students and the District.”